The effect of media reporting of a homicide committed by a patient with schizophrenia on the public stigma and knowledge of psychosis among the general population of Hong Kong
This study aimed to investigate the effects of media reporting of a homicide committed by a patient with schizophrenia on the knowledge about and stigma regarding psychosis among the general Hong Kong population. The effects of using the term ‘schizophrenia (jing-shen-fen-lei)’ in the news on the perceptions of the new Chinese term ‘psychosis (si-jue-shi-tiao)’ were explored.
Random telephone surveys of the general Hong Kong population were conducted in April 2009 (1 month before the incident) and June 2009 (1 week after the incident). Stigma was measured with the Link’s Perceived Discrimination-Devaluation Scale (LPDDS). Knowledge about the symptoms, treatment and belief of dangerousness of psychosis were assessed. The emotional reaction of the public to the news was explored, and its effects on knowledge and stigma were studied.
Overall, 1016 and 506 participants completed the two surveys. More participants in the post-incident survey agreed that people with psychosis are dangerous to the public (χ2 = 4.934, p = 0.026). However, no significant differences were observed in the LPDDS scores. Participants who reported a high level of distress related to the news were more likely to perceive people with psychosis as dangerous to the public (χ2 = 6.738, p = 0.009). Women and older people reported greater distress.
These findings suggest that media reporting of violent incidents involving people with schizophrenia increases the public belief in the dangerousness of people with psychosis but not the overall stigma. Further studies of the differential effects of violence reporting on public perceptions about people with psychosis and schizophrenia are warranted.
KeywordsMedia report violent Dangerous Public stigma Psychosis
The current study was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust as part of the Jockey Club Early Psychosis Project in Hong Kong. We thank the Public Opinion Program of The University of Hong Kong for supporting the fieldwork of the telephone survey.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors of the study report no conflict of interest.